RACV Drive School teaches more people to drive each year than any other school in Australia, so its 105 instructors know a thing or two about surviving the learner game. Read on for tips and advice that will help smooth your path to P-plates.
The PlayStation effect: Your first-time driver has probably only pressed pedals on a PlayStation game and has no idea how sensitive the accelerator and brake pedals can be. First up, get them in an empty car park with the gear lever in neutral or park and get them to press the accelerator. Any money it’ll go to the floor with accompanying racket and scare the life out of them. Better this than when they take off for the first time.
Take your time: Follow the ‘4 Stages of Learning to Drive’ that come with the VicRoads Log Book and tick off the competencies as each has been repeatedly achieved. Don’t advance too quickly. A bad experience in an environment your young driver wasn’t ready for can ruin their confidence and set progress back months.
Point it out: A person will steer to where they are looking. Especially learners. If a parent says “watch the parked car”, it’s guaranteed to make them head for it. Point to where you want them to go.
Mix it up: Get your young driver to experience all possible scenarios while you’re there to help – short and long drives, regional and metro including CBD. Add complexity including noisy passengers, music and varied weather, and drive different cars including front and rear and all-wheel drive.
Show some respect: Stay alert while teaching and treat your learner driver with respect. They are young adults and will respond to being treated as such. Don’t sit and play with your phone.
Do what I do: Lead by example. Young drivers mimic our behaviours and will drive in a similar manner, particularly once on their probationary licence. But they don’t have the depth of knowledge, skill and experience to survive an error in judgement.
Talk about it: Make road safety a discussion point around the table when the news focuses on another collision or a new vehicle safety option. Don’t underestimate the importance of such discussions.
Mirror, mirror: Invest in a stick-on rear-vision mirror. It comes in handy when helping your teen to work on lane changing. Managing space behind is as important as managing the space in front, and mirrors are vital to that for both learner and supervising driver.
Move on up: Progress to more challenging routes that are more than ‘just a drive’. After driving for 70 hours, the learner should be treated as a probationary licensed driver to build their confidence.
Don’t change: Almost all learners slow down to do lane changes. Get them on to a main road (middle lane even) with no parked cars and say “we are not going to do a lane change, but I want you to tell me when it’s safe to do so”. This makes it easier to maintain a steady speed as they know they are not going to do a change, and breaks the stress into two parts.
Teachers, you don’t know what you don’t know: So get professional lessons to introduce your learner to driving and help you work together through key milestones so that the 120 hours are meaningful.